Maize strip tillage [Switzerland]


technologies_1010 - Switzerland

Completeness: 59%

1. General information

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Maize strip tillage is a conservating method for corn production.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Maize strip tillage is a soil-conserving method used in crop production. First of all the grass in the area needs to be prepared by splattering round-up about 3-10 days prior to sowing.
If the weather conditions are dry enough, a special grubber ('Flügelschargrupper') slacks the soil (20cm), the fertilizer is added in the stripes and afterwards the seed is added. Then the actual maize strip tillage machine carves a stripe and the seed are inserted within this strip of 30 cm. At the same time fertilizer is added on these cultivated stripes. Between those cultivated stripes the mulch-grass stripes (45cm) are unmechanised and protect the soil by increasing its stability. At the end a herbicide is applied on the cultivated strip. All working steps can be done at the same time compared to the traditional technique whereas the farmer needs to drive for each working step separately.
There are some clear economic advantages using this technology. It is less time consuming and the costs for diesel are also lower. On the other hand, by applying maize strip tillage the timing of the cultivation is very important and if the conditions are too wet, it is very likely that a farmer needs more herbicide in order to guarantee an optimal growth period.
However, like in a minimum tillage system there are some ecological advantages like enhancing soil stability. Another advantage is the better soil structure due to the mulch stripes. Due to these mulch-stripes the matrix of the soil is more complex and therefore the stability is better especially during the harvest in September. Soil compaction would occur less and the possibility of soil erosion is decreasing. Especially in hilly areas, as there are many in Switzerland, the technology is suitable since soil erosion is a problem in hilly areas when using a plough.
The interviewed farmer said that the farmers need a sound knowledge about the natural environment. Compared to the traditional technology, the farmers need to observe the corn plants carefully in order to ensure their growth period. Frthermore he said that the farmers need to get used to the sensitivity of this technology. If they are not applying the right amount of herbicide, the probability of getting a smaller harvest is increasing. If springtime is humid, the farmers should be able to use the traditional technology cause this SLM technology is only useful if the conditions are not too humid.
The interviewed farmer said that the economic advantages would be very beneficial to most of the farmers. Although the establishment costs for the machines needed for this technology seem to be high. The farmer can also hire a contractor like him and then he only needs to pay the labour but not the equipment itself. If a farmer wants to apply this technology, the canton of Bern provides them with subsidies during the initial 5 years.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:


Specify the spread of the Technology:
  • evenly spread over an area
If precise area is not known, indicate approximate area covered:
  • 10-100 km2

The farmer owns 35 km2 but is applying the technology on 100 km2 in the surrounding area

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • 10-50 years ago

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • during experiments/ research
Comments (type of project, etc.):

A decade ago a farmer invented the machine for maize strip tillage and the departmenet for soil conservation promoted this technology afterwards.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied



  • Annual cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • cereals - maize
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 1

Longest growing period in days: 150 Longest growing period from month to month: Apr - Sep


Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): If a plough is used when having a hillside situation the soil may easily erode.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): The danger of erosion and soil compaction is accelareted when using a plough in a hillside area.

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • minimal soil disturbance
  • cross-slope measure

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

agronomic measures

agronomic measures

  • A3: Soil surface treatment
A3: Differentiate tillage systems:

A 3.2: Reduced tillage (> 30% soil cover)


Type of agronomic measures: better crop cover, retaining more vegetation cover, mulching, minimum tillage

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wt: loss of topsoil/ surface erosion
  • Wg: gully erosion/ gullying
physical soil deterioration

physical soil deterioration

  • Pc: compaction
biological degradation

biological degradation

  • Bc: reduction of vegetation cover

Main type of degradation addressed: Wt: loss of topsoil / surface erosion

Secondary types of degradation addressed: Wg: gully erosion / gullying, Pc: compaction, Bc: reduction of vegetation cover

Main causes of degradation: crop management (annual, perennial, tree/shrub) (using the plough on hillside areas can increase soil erosion)

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: high

Technical knowledge required for land users: moderate

Main technical functions: improvement of ground cover

Secondary technical functions: improvement of topsoil structure (compaction), increase in organic matter, increase of infiltration

Minimum tillage
Remarks: only where the crop seeds are inserted

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):

Swiss Franc

If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Buying machine for stripe mill cropping

Life span of the product: 15 years

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment


Duration of establishment phase: 2 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Applying Round-up herbicide on the area 1 once before corn cultivation
2. Using of the machine for maize strip tillage, seeding and fertilizing within one workstep 1
3. Appliance for herbicide (Glyphosat) 1-2
4. Harvest of the corn 1

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)


Establishment costs are estimated for the contractor. Labour costs indicated above are the costs which the contractor is demanding for if he is hired. Additionally, those farmers who adapt this technology can get subsidies from the Canton if the farmer commits to apply soil conservation measures during 5 years, in Bern it is 450 CHF per ha.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Labour costs might seem high for a farmer if he delegates the establishment to a contractor. In comparison to the traditional cultivation system the contractor would ask about $240 for ploughing , $185 for harrowing , $92 for seeding, $70 for biocide and $46 for fertilizer per ha. Therefore using maize strip tillage is almost a third less expensive than the traditional cultivation. Most of the farmers that hire the contractor are applying the biocides themselves when using maize strip tillage, which makes the costs even lower.

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

850-900 mm for the last 3 years
1200 mm some 10 years ago

Agro-climatic zone
  • sub-humid

Thermal climate class: temperate

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • medium (1-3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil texture is coarse/light (sandy) or medium (loamy, silty) (medium till light soils, depending on the area. On heavy soils technology is not applied).
Soil fertility is medium
Soil drainage/infiltration is good
Soil water storage capacity is medium

5.4 Water availability and quality

Ground water table:

5-50 m

Availability of surface water:


Water quality (untreated):

good drinking water

Comments and further specifications on water quality and quantity:

Ground water table: 5-50 m (depending on the area)
Water quality (untreted): Good drinking water (depending on the region)

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • very rich
Individuals or groups:
  • individual/ household
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Difference in the involvement of women and men: Usually the women are responsible for the administration and household and the men for the actual work on the fields, assuming that the decision to implement a new technology is made by both.

Population density: < 10 persons/km2

Annual population growth: < 0.5%

(His contract company is relatively large.).

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • leased
Water use rights:
  • communal (organized)

The area around the farmer house is individually owned but the surrounding agricutlural land is leased.

5.9 Access to services and infrastructure

  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
technical assistance:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
employment (e.g. off-farm):
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
roads and transport:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good
drinking water and sanitation:
  • poor
  • moderate
  • good

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.3 Exposure and sensitivity of the Technology to gradual climate change and climate-related extremes/ disasters (as perceived by land users)

Gradual climate change

Gradual climate change
Season increase or decrease How does the Technology cope with it?
annual temperature increase well

Climate-related extremes (disasters)

Meteorological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
local rainstorm well
local windstorm not known
Climatological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
drought well
Hydrological disasters
How does the Technology cope with it?
general (river) flood not known

Other climate-related consequences

Other climate-related consequences
How does the Technology cope with it?
reduced growing period not well

With the grass stripes between the corn, the water can infiltrate faster and the soil is more stable and protected. The technology can be more tolerant towards intensive rainfalls but only to a certain moment. The technology is more sensitive towards humid conditions in spring and problems can accure when trying to apply the stripe mill cropping.

6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:


How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:

slightly negative

Long-term returns:


6.5 Adoption of the Technology


35% of land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

Comments on acceptance with external material support: If farmers have good experiences more than 80% are maintaining this technology even without external subsidies of the Canton.

There is a moderate trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: The subsidies from the Canton are very supportive for farmers to implement the new technology

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

Links and modules

Expand all Collapse all